Fiorina: likely first female president!
Fiorina enjoys 'mic drop' moments at GOP debate
By BYRON YORK 9/17/15 7:40 AM
Fiorina on Trump: He's a 'wonderful entertainer'
SIMI VALLEY, Calif. — After a debate like the Republican face off at the Reagan Library Wednesday night, it's customary for candidates or their surrogates to gather in the spin room to meet reporters and tout their performances. And indeed, everyone gathered in the tightly-packed room — Scott Walker, Mike Huckabee and Ben Carson in person, others represented by campaign aides and supporters — when the debate concluded.
Except Carly Fiorina. In a conspicuous absence, neither Fiorina nor anyone from her campaign showed up after the debate. After it was clear no one was coming, I sent a top aide a note. Was the absence intentional? If so, why?
"Yep," the aide answered, with a two-word explanation: "Mic drop."
For those not familiar, the phrase "mic drop" is defined by the Urban Dictionary as "when a performer or speaker intentionally drops/throws the microphone on the floor after an awesome performance" — that is, the performance was so awesome that there is nothing more to say. So Team Fiorina's post-debate silence was a sure sign the candidate was happy.
She was certainly under pressure. In the weeks before Simi Valley, Fiorina had protested and argued that she should be included in the primetime debate, rather than the early debate among candidates with the lowest standings in the polls (Bobby Jindal, George Pataki, Rick Santorum and Lindsey Graham). Debate producers at CNN finally changed the rules to allow Fiorina in. Having agitated to be included, Fiorina couldn't turn in an underwhelming performance. And she didn't.
When a candidate has a Big Moment — when he or she takes down an opponent or delivers a point in such a powerful way that everybody remembers it as a highlight of the debate — that's often enough to energize a campaign for days, or even weeks, to come. Fiorina, who is second in the latest Washington Examiner's presidential power rankings, had at least four.
The first came when Fiorina turned a meandering conversation about Vladimir Putin into a crisp recitation of what a new commander in chief should do about Russian aggression:
What I would do, immediately, is begin rebuilding the Sixth Fleet, I would begin rebuilding the missile defense program in Poland, I would conduct regular, aggressive military exercises in the Baltic states. I'd probably send a few thousand more troops into Germany. Vladimir Putin would get the message. By the way, the reason it is so critically important that every one of us know General Soleimani's name is because Russia is in Syria right now, because the head of the Quds force traveled to Russia and talked Vladimir Putin into aligning themselves with Iran and Syria to prop up Bashar al-Assad …
We could rebuild the Sixth Fleet. I will. We haven't. We could rebuild the missile defense program. We haven't. I will. We could also, to Senator Rubio's point, give the Egyptians what they've asked for, which is intelligence. We could give the Jordanians what they've asked for, bombs and materiel. We have not supplied it. I will. We could arm the Kurds. They've been asking us for three years. All of this is within our control.
Fiorina had packed more policy prescriptions into one brief statement — all while throwing in a dig at Donald Trump with the reference to knowing "General Soleimani's name" — than any other candidate onstage could muster.
Any other campaign might have dispatched spinners to celebrate the moment. But Fiorina was just getting started. Next came an epic and out-of-the-blue connection of two of the issues about which there is a lot of agreement among Republicans — Iran's nuclear ambitions and the scandal over Planned Parenthood's sale of body parts. How to put those two together?
I would like to link these two issues. One has something to do with the defense of the security of this nation. The other has something to do with the defense of the character of this nation. You have not heard a plan about Iran from any politician up here, here is my plan. On day one in the Oval Office, I will make two phone calls, the first to my good friend to Bibi Netanyahu to reassure him we will stand with the state of Israel.
The second, to the supreme leader, to tell him that unless and until he opens every military and every nuclear facility to real anytime, anywhere inspections by our people, not his, we, the United States of America, will make it as difficult as possible and move money around the global financial system.
We can do that, we don't need anyone's cooperation to do it. And every ally and every adversary we have in this world will know that the United States in America is back in the leadership business, which is how we must stand with our allies.
As regards Planned Parenthood, anyone who has watched this videotape, I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, it's heart beating, it's legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain. This is about the character of our nation, and if we will not stand up in and force President Obama to veto this bill, shame on us.
The power of Fiorina's presentation simply knocked out a lot of viewers. Conservative writer Mollie Hemingway, who has been pressing the media to pay more attention to the Planned Parenthood videos, was left nearly speechless, tweeting "THANK YOU CARLY. THANK YOU CARLY. THANK YOU CARLY."
But Fiorina's most intense big moment was still to come — and it was by far the briefest. Everyone knew that Donald Trump's insults about Fiorina's looks — the "Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that?" quote from Trump in a recent Rolling Stone article — would come up in the debate. It did, when moderator Jake Tapper read it to Fiorina and noted Trump's explanation that he was not talking about Fiorina's actual face but rather her "persona."
"Please feel free to respond what you think about his persona," Tapper said to Fiorina. Referring to an earlier spat between Trump and Jeb Bush over a Bush statement about women's health, Fiorina answered:
You know, it's interesting to me. Mr. Trump said that he heard Mr. Bush very clearly and what Mr. Bush said. I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.
Fiorina's answer took just a few seconds, but it knocked Trump flat — something that has not happened in any debate, or any other campaign event, so far. Trump, who has made it a habit not to apologize for attacks and to double down when challenged, surrendered completely. But he managed to do it in a way that did him no good at all. "I think she's got a beautiful face," Trump said, "and I think she's a beautiful woman." Did anyone believe that? And wasn't he still saying her appearance is an issue?
Finally, Fiorina lapped the field when Tapper asked the candidates to suggest a woman to put on the $10 bill. Most of the men onstage were unprepared for the question — Mike Huckabee said his wife, Ben Carson said his mother, Jeb Bush said Margaret Thatcher, and John Kasich said Mother Theresa. When the question came to the only woman on the stage, Fiorina rejected its premise:
I wouldn't change the $10 bill, or the $20 bill. I think, honestly, it's a gesture. I don't think it helps to change our history. What I would think is that we ought to recognize that women are not a special interest group. Women are the majority of this nation. We are half the potential of this nation, and this nation will be better off when every woman has the opportunity to live the life she chooses.
Four big moments in one debate. No other candidate had that. And with each successive moment, the Fiorina buzz at the Reagan Library grew louder.
In the first Republican debate, on Fox News Aug. 6, Fiorina's poll numbers were so low that she failed to make the cut for the prime-time debate. That meant she was not seen by the record 24 million people who watched. But Fiorina had a breakout moment in what was called the "undercard" debate — which was seen by more than six million — and afterward her polls began to climb, well into the top 10 required for inclusion in the main CNN debate.
With that ascent, Fiorina was under new pressure to perform. There was a real downside if she didn't do well, but a tremendous upside if she did. "This was a huge opportunity for me to continue to introduce myself to the American people," Fiorina said in an interview early Thursday morning on Fox News. Finally on the big stage, she rose to the occasion.